Why I Oppose the So-Called Public Safety & Rehabilitation Act of 2016

IMG_3741I first became acutely aware of the limitations placed on crime victims in the aftermath of my daughter Polly’s 1993 kidnap, rape and murder.
 

Since then I have worked with legislators, victim’s rights organizations, police and prosecutors toward a day when victims achieve equity with violent felons in the criminal justice system.
 

California has a proud victim’s rights history. We have created a body of work that protects crime victims, allows them to retain dignity and respect as they seek justice, and feel safe after justice has been achieved. We have further ensured that criminals are held accountable for their crimes.
 

If Governor Brown’s so-called ‘Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016’ is passed into law, the blood, sweat, and tears of generations of crime victim advocates will be ground underfoot like an immigrant at a Trump rally as violent criminals are released onto our streets and into our neighborhoods.
 

The Governor has said that any felony not included in the paltry list of 23 “violent felonies”  defined in the criminal code would be a “non-violent felony” for purposes of his initiative, because the term “non-violent felony offense” is not defined in the initiative, or elsewhere in California law.
 

In 1982, the voters enacted Proposition 8, the Victim’s Bill of Rights, which defined and listed ‘serious felonies’. While many are not on the ‘violent felony’ list, perhaps they should be. A partial list of crimes that are not technically considered “violent,” so therefore, qualify as “non-serious, non-violent offenses” eligible for early release in the Governor’s initiative include:

 

  • Human Trafficking Involving Forced Labor or Services (Pen. Code 222)
  • Human Trafficking Involving Sex Acts, Obscene Matter, or Extortion (Pen. Code 236.1(b))
  • Human Trafficking Involving a Minor and Commercial Sex Acts (Pen. Code 236.1(c))
  • Pimping (Pen. Code 266h)
  • Pandering (Pen. Code 266i)
  • Transporting or Providing a Child Under Age 16 For the Purpose of a Lewd Act (Pen. Code 266j)
  • Abduction of a Minor For the Purpose of Prostitution (Pen. Code 267)

This partial list also obliterates Proposition 35, a victim’s rights bill which had the support of 81% of voters when it passed into law in 2012, and determined that human trafficking is a ‘crime against human dignity and grievous violation of basic human and civil rights.
 

I’m very proud to be a small part of a movement that has helped to cut California’s violent crime rate in half since my daughter was kidnapped, raped and murdered in 1993. However, according to the FBI Preliminary Uniform Crime Report for 2015, in California violent crime was up 12.9% during the first 6-months of 2015 as compared to the first 6-months of 2014. This represents the first significant rise in violent crime in more than two decades.
 

The lessons of the past should steer us towards ensuring lasting legacies for generations yet to be born. Instead, they are being ignored as future generations become guinea pigs for a social experiment that doomed to failure.
 

I want to be sure that we all understand what kind of people we are talking about here. There has been a lot of talk this morning about the power of rehabilitation, so I would like to remind you that the individual who stole, raped, and murdered my Polly had successfully completed rehabilitation and job training programs before being released from prison for serving one half of a sixteen-year-sentence for his second kidnapping. Yet three-months later my daughter was dead. Prior to being released from prison he told cellmates that when he got out he would avoid AIDS by getting a young one. You see, this sadistic psychopath’s definition of safe sex was to steal, rape and murder a twelve-year-old girl.
 

This may sound harsh, but ask yourself how you would feel if your child, sister, or mother became the next victim of a remorseless psychopath in a world that releases dangerous criminals onto the streets as violence again spirals out of control.

National Victim Rights Week

Victims 9

Today National Victim’s Rights Week was acknowledged on the West Steps of the State Capitol in Sacramento. Crime Victims United sponsored an event, so there were plenty of speeches and participating politicians included Governor Jerry Brown. However, it was the victims and murder victim family members who really stood out because each and every one interrupted their lives in order to take a stand for victim’s rights, acknowledge their lost loved ones, and lobby their legislators for effective public safety policy and legislation.

Victims Prayer

Victims Prayer

The importance of being personally involved in the political process cannot be overstated. I’ve been doing it since 1993, when my daughter was murdered by a violent offender with an extensive criminal history. In those days, there were very few legislative fall back positions for children who were being victimized. Call me a cynic, but I truly believe that was because kids don’t vote and politicians don’t have to look them in the eye. Therefore they didn’t have a real voice.

Victims 4

Things have changed enormously since then as the result of a series of tragic crimes and effective children’s advocates. We have Amber Alerts, Megan’s Law, law enforcement missing child protocols, and greater awareness and education surrounding child safety and child welfare issues.

Crime Victim's Harriet Salarno, Lexie Ashford, and Nina Salarno-Ashford

Crime Victim’s Harriet Salarno, Lexie Ashford, and Nina Salarno-Ashford

When I refer to being involved in the political process I’m not talking about the process as practiced in the houses of government that results in political perp walks on the 11:00 p.m. News. I don’t mean politicians like U.S. Congressman Mark Foley who left Washington D.C. in disgrace after he was found soliciting young boys serving as Congressional pages. I don’t mean pious hypocrites like Leland Yee, who I saw walking the halls of California’s Capitol on the day he got arrested, however I don’t think he’d been arrested yet because he wasn’t wearing handcuffs. I don’t mean corrupt politicians like state Senator’s Ronald Calderon and Roderick Wright who yesterday joined Yee in having their names and online archives disappear from the Senate website yesterday.

Sweet Polly...Never Forgotten!

Sweet Polly…Never Forgotten!

In 1995, I joined Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a coalition of prosecutors, police chiefs and crime victims lobbying for prevention funding for at-risk children. In 1995 the federal government was funding quality pre-school and after school activities for 10,000 children, but today, in large part because of people like you and me who became personally involved in the political process that number has grown to 1,000,000.

John

John

I don’t mean the ideological political process that paralyzes legislative bodies throughout the United States. People have differences, but can usually find common ground on the issues that are important to us, particularly if those issues regard the well-being of our kids. However, ideological politics has paralyzed the legislative process so that nothing meaningful ever gets done.

With 3-Strikes guru Mike Reynolds

With 3-Strikes guru Mike Reynolds

Let me give you an example that perfectly illustrates how popular and common sense policy concepts that cannot get a vote in the legislature can become law when people become involved. In 2011 I spent a lot of time here at the Capitol with Chris Kelly, Suzanne DiNubile and others lobbying for legislation requiring registered sex offenders to include Internet identifiers like email address and social networking handles. We watched as two separate bills died in committee. In 2012 that concept became an integral component of Prop. 35. Under Daphne Phung’s vision and leadership Prop. 35 passed by the widest margin of any initiative in California history with more than 81% of the vote.

Victims 6

Today I went to the Capitol because National Victim’s Rights week is April 6-12. It represents an opportunity for people like me to remind our elected officials what’s really important. I’ve always felt that their primary duty is public safety, but the isolation and insulation of this building confuses them and sometimes they need to be reminded what is important and who they serve.

No more victims

No more victims

Right now there is a disturbing trend in the Capitol that is putting us all at risk. Many of the accomplishments that cut California’s crime rate in half 20-years ago is being undone by the legislators in this very building. Governor Brown’s realignment policy has dumped tens of thousands of violent criminals onto our streets. The repeal of 3-strikes will allow thousands of lifers to go free. Failure to enforce Jessica’s Law has allowed an untold number of registered sex offenders to abscond. A law written by Senator Lee will allow remorseless killers to be released back into society, and finally Governor Brown’s decision to parole more than twice as many lifers than his three predecessors combined.

Color Guard

Without people like us making our views known to our elected officials we will find ourselves in dire straits. Because we live in dynamic communities that change and evolve and sometimes can be hazardous, while they live in marble lined halls where your hands don’t get dirty and your farts don’t smell. Sometimes they just need to be reminded that people matter, that showing the courage to do the right thing is more important than toeing the line for rigid ideology, or making decisions based on personal gain.

To Protect and Serve: A Tale of Two Dads

As long as law enforcement serves and protects the innocent against criminal activity, personal retribution is not an option. However, when public safety institutions fail to take action against known criminals and do not intervene to assist victims whose safety is at risk, then they seem to be serving and protecting criminal activity. When criminal justice is perceived as justice for criminals, and victims are ignored, desperate people will seek desperate solutions. I do not condone vigilante justice, but justice must be served, and in the case of the death of Calvin Sneed, a known pimp, the burden of justice was placed squarely on the shoulders of Barry Gilton and Lupe Mercado.

 

On Saturday, June 9 a party in Shiner, TX turned deadly when a 23-year-old father caught a 47-year-old acquaintance sexually molesting his 4-year-old daughter. The young dad beat the man to death on the spot. Thus far, no charges have been filed as Nancy Grace and a slew of experts and pundits, including me, have lauded the young man as a “father of the year,” for his impulsive, deadly action. The District Attorney has sent the case to the Grand Jury. If the Grand Jury does file charges it will probably be impossible to find a Texas jury that would convict this father for protecting his young daughter from a violent sex crime.

 

Calvin Sneed

At 2:00 a.m., on Monday June 4, 22-year-old pimp Calvin Sneed was gunned down near San Francisco’s Candlestick Park. On June 9, Barry Gilton and Lupe Mercado were charged with murdering Sneed, conspiracy to commit murder and one count of discharging a firearm at an occupied vehicle. They are both being held in lieu of $2-million bail.

 

About a year ago Barry Gilton and Lupe Mercado’s 17-year-old daughter was lured away from her San Francisco home by 22-year-old Calvin Sneed. Soon, Snead was forcing their daughter to have sex with strangers throughout California. Upon learning that their daughter was appearing in on-line escort ads, Gilton and Mercado entered her in several missing and exploited children registries and sought help from several law enforcement agencies. The authorities were either unable or unwilling to assist. San Francisco Attorney General George Gascon said that as a father, he understood “the frustration that the parents must have felt…. But taking the law into your own hands is not an acceptable solution.”

 

According to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), signed into law by President Bush in 2000, sex trafficking occurs when a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age. In California the age of consent is 18, so clearly laws were being violated. Yet the authorities refused to help when desperate parents asked them to intervene when a pimp forced their underage daughter to have sex with strangers over the long term.

 

Pimping involves a complex relationship between a male pimp and one or more women and/or girls. The pimp wields complete control and induces commercial sex acts in order to make money. The pimp attains authoritative levels of control and obedience through intense manipulation that begins during the grooming process. Manipulations include feigned affection, brutal violence, and verbal, psychological, and/or emotional abuse. This breaking-down phase takes a girl from healthy adolescent sexual boundaries to commercial sex with strangers.  This process has been widely-documented and replicated by pimps nationwide. In the trafficking paradigm, this process involves force, fraud, and coercion.

 

Seasoning often involves beating the girls with hands, fists, and kicking, as well as with objects such as bats, tools, chains, and cords. Burning of personal items to foster hopelessness and demoralization or directly burning women and girls using cigarette/cigar butts is another common tactic. Underage prostitutes also fear rape or gang rape, being locked in closets, the trunks of cars or rooms for indeterminate amounts of time. They also face other torture techniques such as food or water deprivation, or various forms of bondage such as chaining individuals to items or tying them up; direct verbal insults, name-calling, threats, mind control, brainwashing, cognitive re-programming, and other mind boggling forms of violence.

 

It is well-documented that pimps establish mandatory monetary quotas that typically range from $500 – $1,000. The women and girls under their control must fulfill their quota in order to end each night of commercial sex. Quotas are strictly enforced, and the punishment for failing to meet a quota is severe physical retaliation from the pimp. In pimp-controlled situations, the women and girls keep zero of this money and turn over 100-percent of the profits to the pimp.


Why don’t underage prostitutes leave, given that it is a difficult life and the pimp has all the advantages? For a wide variety of reasons, girls under a pimp’s control will often not self-identify as victims of human trafficking or seek help on their own for a variety of reasons. They may be locked indoors. They face or fear severe physical retaliation, including beatings and rape, if they are caught trying to escape. The pimp threatens reprisals against family members. The girls feel shame about the activities they have been forced to perform. They may have a debt to the pimp that they believe they need to pay off or feel loyalty, similar to Stockholm syndrome, to the pimp. They may be resigned to their fate, or may have no personal resources to assist them. Finally, the girls may distrust law enforcement, and given the current scenario, that is perfectly understandable.

 

San Francisco’s District Attorney says that, “Deadly force is only justified when you’re defending someone from an immediate threat of deadly force or great bodily injury”. Calvin Sneed was a monster who forced Gilton and Mercado’s underage daughter onto the street at all hours, demanded that she have sex with any stranger willing to pay the price, and advertised her in online sex ads. She was a defenseless girl, subject to AIDS and numerous other STD’s, oftentimes alone with anonymous strangers who lurk in the night. What part of that scenario does not constitute a, “threat of deadly force or great bodily injury”? The District Attorney says that they are looking into whether or not, “She was there willingly or forced to be there,” however according to the law that is not a consideration. She is an underage serial crime victim that the authorities were unwilling to acknowledge let alone rescue. Her parents attempted numerous avenues of legal recourse and were shut down every time.

 

Attorneys for Gilton and Mercado say that the couple is innocent. They acknowledge that they had a motive, but point out that there are no eye witnesses and no murder weapon. Gilton’s attorney Eric Safire points out that, “What we do know is that the victim is a known gang member, he was out at 2 a.m. in a high crime area—I can only presume he was engaged in his normal and customary [pimping] activities. He was subject to gang violence.”

 

What’s wrong with this picture? How can we condemn a parent, no matter what they do, for protecting their child? Whether it’s being caught in the immediacy of the victimization or watching from home as their child is being serially victimized in the public arena. Parents are fighting for and having to protect their children, who are being sexually victimized, in ways that are illegal, either because law enforcement is not present or refuses to make themselves present. As the parent of a murdered child, I understand. If I were given the chance to protect and save Polly I would have done whatever I needed to do, including shooting her killer, who now sits on California’s death row, to death. We need to protect our children. Whether it is writing new laws or enforcing existing laws. If it means keeping perpetrators behind bars, or forcing law enforcement to handle cases in times of tight budgets, we need to support parents, who are victims themselves, to protect and preserve their children from violent criminal activity.

Alabama Legislature Steps Up to Protect Kids!

I have been part of an effort in California to legislate a Megan’s Law update by including internet identifiers as part of the registration process. Last year two bills carefully drafted to address this singular issue (AB 755 – SB 57) were killed in committee, meaning they never made it to the floor of the respective houses for an up and down vote. It makes one wonder why California’s lawmakers prioritize the privacy of registered sex offenders ahead of the safety of children? The Alabama State Legislature has no such compunctions. This afternoon I testified on behalf of the Alabamians Against Sexual Exploitation Act, which will bridge the gap between Megan’s Law and the 21stCentury, and do more. Much more!
“Mr. Chairman and members of the committee I want to thank you for affording me the opportunity to talk about this very important issue. Sometimes, when we get our priorities mixed up we need a reality check. The Alabamians Against Sexual Exploitation Act is that reality check.

Human trafficking is a criminal business that profits from enslaving people for sexual servitude and forced labor. It is the fastest growing and second largest criminal industry in the world today (second only to drug trafficking and tied with illegal arms). According to the Trafficking in Victims Protection Act, which was signed into law by President George Bush in 2000, human sex trafficking occurs when, ‘a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.’

Since 2000, we have learned that the U.S. is as much a supply country as it is a demand country. In fact, we are supplying much of our own demand. Every year between 1.6 and 2.8 million children run away annually in the U.S., half of those runaways are girls.  Within 48 hours of hitting the streets, one third of these children are lured or recruited into the underground world of prostitution or pornography. The average age at which girls first become victims of prostitution is 12-14. For boys, the entry age is 11-13. These kids are victims of human trafficking and each and every one is somebody’s child.

We glamorize pimp culture in music, on TV and at the movies. We create pimp celebrities and legitimize them in mainstream media. We photograph pimps at Players Balls and marvel at their ostentatious displays of wealth when we should be putting them in prison. Pimp-controlled commercial sexual exploitation of children is linked to escort and massage services, private dancing, drink and photographic clubs, major sporting and recreational events, major cultural events, conventions and tourist destination.

At the same time we criminalize kids who find themselves under the control of pimps. These kids are often portrayed as criminals, drug addled crack whores who are incarcerated rather than assisted once law enforcement brings them in off of the street. These kids are not criminals, they are victims. Many of them are missing. Many, but not all have run away or are throwaway children.

It is not so “Hard Out There for a Pimp”. Pimps are human traffickers and should be prosecuted as such. Under the Alabamians for Sexual Exploitation Act pimps will be prosecuted, imprisoned and forced to register as sex offenders. They will pay fines that will fund victim services for the children they have exploited.
But wait, there’s more. Sex offender registration and community notification, otherwise known as Megan’s Law was adopted by all 50-states in the late 90’s. Megan’s Law is based on the premise that convicted sex offenders pose a threat to society and that the public deserves to know when they are in the community. When Megan’s Law was enacted the Internet was not the ubiquitous presence that it is today. The Alabamians Against Sexual Exploitation Act will also allow Alabama to bridge Megan’s Law into the 21st Century.

We know who the registered sex offenders are in our neighborhoods and towns, but not in our virtual, online communities. The Alabamians Against Sexual Exploitation Act requires registered sex offenders to provide Internet email addresses, social networking profiles and other online identifiers so that social networking sites can scour relevant profiles from their online communities.

The concept of convicted sex offenders including their Internet identifiers as a component of the sex offender registration process was successfully legislated in New York in 2008 and has thus far been responsible for removing more than 24,000 sex offender profiles from social networking sites.

I urge the members of the committee to vote YES on The Alabamians Against Sexual Exploitation Act.”


The CASE Act: Coming to a Ballot Near You!

Because the California State Legislature just doesn’t get it, a new, powerful initiative is being prepared for the November 2012 California general election ballot. The Californians Against Sexual Exploitation (CASE) Act will strengthen penalties against human trafficking and update Megan’s Law for the 21stCentury. I am calling on the good citizens of California to support the CASE Act. Californians are very clear about where they stand on criminal justice and victims rights issues and the CASE Act is yet another opportunity to make good policy.

In 1994, the Three Strikes and You’re Out ballot initiative (Proposition 184) passed overwhelmingly because the law abiding citizens of California were sick and tired of coddling career criminals. The result was a dramatic reduction in crime. Efforts by professional politicians to weaken the Three Strikes law have failed miserably. Jessica’s Law (Prop. 83) passed by a similar margin in 2006, because Californians wanted greater monitoring of sex offenders and harsher prison sentences for child molesters.

Californians also enjoy some of the most expansive and forward thinking victim’s rights in the USA because of voter demands. In 1982, California voters passed the country’s first Victims Bill of Rights (Prop. 8) that, among other things, granted crime victims the right to be notified of, to attend, and to state their views at, sentencing and parole hearings. Marsy’s Law (Prop. 9), which was passed by voter initiative in 2008 expanded upon those rights by adding new protections and safeguards for victims of violent crime.

Two overlooked areas of concern addressed by the CASE Act are human trafficking and online predation. The CASE Act will increase prison terms for human traffickers and increase fines for human traffickers up to $1.5M to fund victim services. It will remove the need to prove force to prosecute sex trafficking of a minor as well as mandate human trafficking training for law enforcement. Sex traffickers will be required to register as sex offenders, and all sex offenders will be required to disclose internet accounts and identifiers. Finally the CASE Act will prohibit the use of sexual history to impeach or prove criminal liability of trafficked victims.

According to the Trafficking in Victims Protection Act, which was signed into law by President George Bush in 2000, human sex trafficking occurs when, “a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age.” Between 1.6 and 2.8 million children run away annually in the U.S., half of which are girls. Within 48 hours of hitting the streets, one third of these children are lured or recruited into the underground world of prostitution or pornography. The average age at which girls first become victims of prostitution is 12-14. For boys, the entry age is 11-13. These harrowing statistics provide broad justification for the CASE Act, because to turn our backs on the tens of thousands of children being trafficked in California is simply another form of victimization.

Sex offender registration and community notification, otherwise known as Megan’sLaw was adopted by all 50-states in the late 90’s. Megan’s Law is based on the premise that convicted sex offenders pose a threat to society and that the public deserves to know when they are in the community. When Megan’s Law was enacted the Internet was not the ubiquitous presence that it is today. The CASE Act requires registered sex offenders to provide Internet email addresses, social networking profiles and other online identifiers so that social networking sites can scour relevant profiles from their online communities. The concept of convicted sex offenders including their Internet identifiers as a component of the sex offender registration process was successfully legislated in New York in 2008 and has thus far been responsible for removing more than 24,000 sex offender profiles from social networking sites.

I have joined CASE Act authors California Against Slavery and the Safer California Foundation to get this important measure on California’s 2012 general election ballot. We know that in the United States predators are fulfilling their voracious appetite for underage prostitution with at-risk American teen aged children. This is a stain on our society. We also know that we can stop sexual predators from using the Internet to prey on innocent children by closing the Internet loophole of anonymity via this administrative procedure. Since the California State Legislature is unwilling to take these reasonable steps to create safe streets it is left to citizens like you and I to take control of our own future.
Do you want to help make the CASE Act a reality?  If you live in California you can lead a group of volunteers in your community by helping to gather the 750,000 signatures required to qualify the CASE Act for the 2012 ballot. You can also host a house party to raise awareness and raise funds; or create and conduct your own fundraising event. If you run a nonprofit agency or are sworn member of a law enforcement agency you can endorse this important and groundbreaking initiative. Act now to get in on an effort to create a safer and better California by actively supporting the CASE Act.